Wow! The Economy Seems Great! (But Only if You Live in D.C.)

Mike Brownfield /

Think the economy is getting better? See brighter skies ahead? If so, then you’re in the minority. Well, that is, unless you live in Washington, D.C.

According to a new Gallup poll, the District of Columbia is the only place in the country where a majority of people think the economy is improving (60 percent, in fact). In every state in the union, most people say the economy is getting worse.

What is it about being inside the beltway that makes people so optimistic? Is it the glistening waters of the Potomac? The heat and humidity? Or perhaps it’s that the District is home to the federal government, which has dramatically increased its spending as a share of the U.S. economy over the last three years. Gallup goes out on a limb to explain all the good feelings emanating from our nation’s capital:

Many may argue that the relative economic optimism of those in the nation’s capital and the states around it — and its relative increase this year in Washington — reflects their insulation from what is happening in the rest of the economy. This is at least partly true because those living in and around D.C. benefit from having the federal government as their major industry. And, unlike state and local governments, the federal government has continued to grow even as many other industries have not during the recession and its aftermath.

It’s not the first time D.C. has been a statistical outlier. According to the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices, of 20 major metropolitan areas in the country, Washington is the only one to see positive change in home prices over the past year.

But while all is green in Washington, the rest of the country is feeling the effects of the economy. Last week, Gallup released a poll which showed America’s confidence in the economy plunging to lows not seen since the recession in March 2009, with 77 percent of Americans saying the U.S. economy is getting worse. And it’s those Americans who are shelling out the tax dollars that pay for Washington’s rose-colored glasses.